The Washington Football Team released longtime kicker Dustin Hopkins and signed Chris Blewitt off the practice squad, the team announced Wednesday, ending one era for the team and starting another with great uncertainty.

Hopkins, who signed with the team in 2015 after stints with the Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints, holds franchise records for highest field goal percentage (84.0 percent) and most field goals from 50 or more yards (14). But after a handful of misses during the first six games of the season, he was replaced by a kicker who has no regular season NFL experience and has not kicked in any game that has counted since 2016. Blewitt’s last game was when he was a senior at the University of Pittsburgh.

“Well, [I] just felt that we needed to do something going forward,” Coach Ron Rivera said. “Really appreciate everything Dustin has done for us. He’s a solid football player. He’ll get an opportunity to play again. I just felt at this time it was something that I felt we had to do going forward. This was my move, my decision, and I’ll live with it.”

Over the past couple of seasons, the story of Hopkins’s tenure has been the misses. In 2020, Hopkins missed seven of 34 attempts, plus two extra-point attempts. Through the first six games of 2021, he missed another two extra-point attempts, as well as two field goals — including a 42-yarder in Washington’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend.

The struggles of Washington’s kicking operation became apparent during the preseason when Hopkins missed 40- and 50-yard field goals against the New England Patriots and had a 55-yarder blocked by the Baltimore Ravens. He and Tress Way, the team’s punter and holder, expressed confidence they would smooth out any issues as they gained experience with rookie long snapper Camaron Cheeseman, and the coaching staff supported the belief.

“It’s one of those things, it’s not like you’re going to go out there and pluck a kicker that’s going to come in and it’s going to kick over 80-something percent,” Rivera said in early October, after a win over Atlanta during which Hopkins missed two extra-point attempts. “You want a little more consistency, especially with the extra points, and he’s working on it. And again, it’s just one of these things, and hopefully he’ll correct it. And we’ll go from there.”

In his six-plus seasons in Washington, Hopkins made 163 of his 194 field goal attempts, ranking 23rd among kickers in that span at 84 percent. But from 50-plus yards out, he was only 14 for 27 for a 51.9 percent rate that ranked last in the league over that time.

Over the past decade, the rate of 50-plus-yard kicks has increased in the NFL, with the start to this season including the most since at least 2000. Through six games, NFL teams have attempted 73 field goals of 50 yards or more, making up roughly 21.2 percent of all field goal attempts, per analytics website TruMedia Sports. The rate of 50-yard field goal attempts the previous two seasons were 17.5 percent and 14.8 percent, respectively.

Blewitt, Pitt’s all-time leader in scoring (363 points), field goals (55) and extra points (198), has yet to kick in a regular season NFL game. The last game he played that counted was Pitt’s loss to Northwestern in the Pinstripe Bowl. He went 1 for 2 in the game, missing a 43-yarder in the second half.

In his four years at Pitt (2013-16), Blewitt was 55 for 79 (69.6 percent) on field goals, missing 12 of 32 from 40 to 49 yards and 4 of 8 from 50 or more yards.

Despite Blewitt’s inexperience, Rivera liked what he saw during the two workouts he had in Washington this month.

“There’s not a lot of guys out there with a lot of experience right now,” Rivera said Wednesday. “We had brought Chris in before, and Chris did the same thing in the workout he did before. I think he only missed one, and it was over a 50-yarder, I think, at both of his tryouts that he had. That’s how consistent he was. He kicks the ball off relatively deep. . . . He kicked one into the wind that had about a 4.5-second hang time, and it was about 70 yards deep. So we know he’s got a strong leg for kickoff, so we felt pretty good about that.”

A 2012 All-Met selection at West Potomac High, Blewitt went unsigned for three years after graduating from Pitt, working at Home Depot as a floor associate while continuing to train for an NFL opportunity. He signed with the Chicago Bears in March 2019 to replace Cody Parkey after Parkey’s infamous “Double Doink” miss in a playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, but Blewitt’s stint in Chicago lasted only three months. He was cut before the start of training camp and began another two years of free agency and working odd jobs. He most recently spent his mornings as a personal trainer, his nights at a UPS warehouse hauling boxes off trucks and his afternoons training for another shot in the NFL.

“Being out of it, I think, it kind of forces you to grow up a little faster,” he said. “You have to train on your own time, whatever free time you have, without a team and with no guarantee of anything. So you have to become a little more hardened to that and understand the process … and understand the long-term picture of it.

Blewitt signed to Washington’s practice squad Oct. 5 but was cut after only eight days and then re-signed Wednesday after beating out fellow free agent kickers Sam Sloman and Lirim Hajrullahu in a tryout.

Now, after nearly five years, Blewitt finally will make his NFL debut Sunday at Green Bay.